- Buyer's Guide
HOKA One One and Cotopaxi Team Up for Eco-conscious Collab
The outdoor industry continues to evolve and grow as we learn more about environmental impacts, better technologies, and more efficient manufacturing processes. Some brands follow the beaten path, while others blaze forth and make their own trail.
HOKA One One (Ho-Kah Own-ay Own-ay) and Cotopaxi (kōtōpä´ksē) are fixtures in the latter category. Both are young companies, in relation to powerhouses one might associate with the outdoors, but their youthful exuberance and forward thinking ideas have gained them great acclaim from critics and fans alike. Both companies were founded on the premise of problem solving. In our experience at Carryology, this mantra often creates some of the best products on the market, as the design and manufacture are driven from a place of genuine innovation. HOKA was started by two Frenchmen from the alps who wanted to mimic the momentum seen in outdoor sports (such as climbing, mountain biking, and skiing) and transfer it to the humble running shoe. In fact the name HOKA One One comes from the Maori phrase “to fly over the earth/freedom to fly”. Their cushioned soles paired with a rocker midfoot have become ubiquitous with comfort and performance. Cotopaxi was started in 2014, with the goal of making a positive impact while creating high quality, high personality gear. Together, they’ve created a seriously playful, two item, fast and light collaboration which we got our hands on and put to the test.
With the all gender Torrent 2, HOKA have taken the industry-leading comfort that they are known for in their running shoes and transferred it to their trail line, known as their Sky line. Weighing in at 9.3oz, the Torrent 2 is bold, beautiful, and balanced. Constructed with their PROFLYTM midsole, the wearer gets a soft, cushioned landing, followed by an explosive propulsion from the toe. While this isn’t as plush as some of their other offerings, it still offers significant support as you work. The 5mm heel to toe drop enhances this, providing just the right amount of incline for you on the trail so that you aren’t tilting forwards so far that you might topple, but giving just enough lean to help with your momentum. It’s hard to characterise in words how different it is wearing HOKA shoes, I’ve now been wearing varying shoes (both hiking and running/exercise) from their collection for over a year and I am fully converted. That conversion has all stemmed from their incredible midsole, and the huge reduction I’ve found in my knee, foot, and leg fatigue. While I consider myself relatively fit, there is no doubting that I’m a larger, broader chap (6ft, 220lbs) compared to the ultra runners you might see in adverts, and this technology has made a significant difference to my comfort in prolonged activity. I mention this not to give a “shout from the rooftops” testimonial, but to highlight how significant this level of support is, particularly on the trail, which the Torrent is designed for. Whether you intend to use these for twenty mile trail runs, speedy 5k’s, or even as a daily hiker/approach shoe, you will be pleasantly surprised at how your legs and feet feel after your session.
The Torrent 2’s also have a small overlay between the sole and upper, to stop any excess debris getting in as you pound the trail, a simple, but effective touch that gives you a little extra security. While we are talking of security, the multidirectional lugs on the sole provide great traction and stability in a variety of terrains.I’ve found them comfortable on sand, packed trail and mud. Plus the marbled design of the sole is a lot of fun! Speaking of the design, these are asymmetric in a nod to Cotopaxi’s wonderful bags (more on that later!) and they look great! I’ve had so many comments while wearing these, and they are truly unique. They come with two pairs of laces so you can change it up depending on how you are feeling. Not only are these exceptionally comfortable, they have a conscious construction, too. The upper and laces are made from Unifi REPREVE® yarn, which is made from post-consumer waste plastic. Not only can you be comfortable as you attack your PB’s, you have peace of mind knowing their environmental impact is significantly reduced.
To complement the Torrent 2’s, Cotopaxi took the lead and created a variation of their successful Batac 16L backpack. This lightweight, unstructured backpack is a very versatile piece. Originally designed as a companion piece to Cotopaxi’s larger travel bags, this packs exceptionally flat (under ½ an inch!) and can come with you anywhere. For a small bag, the Batac has a good range of features including a simple internal hanging EDC pocket, divider sleeve (good size for laptop/tablet/hydration bladder), two mesh water bottle pockets, and a front vertical zip pocket that includes a mesh sleeve the perfect size for wallet or keys. One of my favourite features about this bag is really Cotopaxi’s calling card – their Del Dia design. Each of the bags in their Del Dia collection is made from remnant materials, hand chosen by the individual employee who constructs the bag, meaning that no two will look the same! I love that my unique bag is even more unique!
Design aside, this is a very comfortable and versatile bag. As with all unstructured bags, your mileage may vary depending on how you pack it. If you’re carrying just soft, plush, clothing, you won’t even notice you’re wearing it. If you need to carry something a little heavier or harder, it’s worth trying out a few different configurations to dial in your comfort. For example, if you carry your camera or laptop with you, you may want to place a jacket along the backside of the pack to avoid having the rigidity against your back. The construction is also excellent, especially when considering the price point and compared to other packs in the market. The ultralight mesh straps and an adjustable sternum strap (also very colourful) allow you to carry relatively significant loads with ease. I’ve used this as a run-around bag for errands, a day hiker, and a grocery bag. I find 16L to be a good size for getting the little things done. The 75D/210D nylon shell appears robust so far, and surprisingly water resistant, while I wouldn’t want anything expensive to get ruined in a downpour, it should handle light rain and splashes with ease. I’ve really enjoyed using this pack and while it won’t replace my dedicated camera/tech bag or a serious ascent pack, it is perfect for the days when I’m running around, or need something fast and light for a quick jaunt.
This collaboration between two conscious companies isn’t just an exercise in marketing, it is a thoughtful, and tasteful melding of mantras. It is one that I think works very well. For under $200 (Torrent 2 – $130, Batac – $65) you have an adventure ready set up that not only has playfulness and character, it performs well, and plays its part in the environmental impact stakes. When you consider this is a first time collection for the two, and that both are continuing to evolve their product lines into new arenas, I’m excited to see what’s next.